Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spinning Songbook Countdown: Blood & Chocolate

I think I nearly lost my voice this morning when I listened to Blood & Chocolate on the ride to work. The 20-minute drive just before dawn was much more enjoyable with Elvis Costello and the Attractions blasting on my stereo. The raucous energy of Tokyo Storm Warning always rouses me to sing with Costello who rants over a menacing Pete Thomas drum beat, describing postcard-like tour snapshots from around the world. The there's the drama of "I Want You," an almost psychotic song from the point of view the jealous, unrequited lover that's made even more creepy by Steve Nieve's church organ surging in the background. The album closes with personal favorite, "Next Time Around" featuring one of the all-time best Costello lines - There's a second-hand emotion on battered forty-five - and Bruce Thomas' incredibly bouncy bass. These are some of Costello's catchiest songs and the Attractions deliver their fiercest performances yet. Sadly, it would be their last album together for another 8 years.

Blood & Chocolate was released in 1986, the same year as King of America, and besides closing out the first Attractions era the album is also the last he recorded for the Columbia label. While none of these things were apparent when it was first released, it kind of seems fitting that a good way to cap these phases of his a career would be with a bang. There's the nonsensical stomp of "Uncomplicated," the power-pop rush in "Crimes of Paris" and "Blue Chair." "I Hope You're Happy Now" has to been one of the greatest break-up fuck-you's ever put into song. There are a few dark songs in the album like "I Want You," the tragic apartment building stories in "Battered Old Bird," and Mr. Misery's tale in "Home is Anywhere You Hang Your Head." For some reason, it didn't do so well when it came and it's a shame because it's one of the forgotten classics in Costello's career. 

The album also prompted the original Spectacular Spinning Songbook series of concerts featuring guests like Tom Waits and Buster Poindexter as well as a go-go cage for audience members who spin the wheel. He brought the wheel back last year and it'll finally come to Florida in April. I can't wait.

Classics: I Hope You're Happy Now, Tokyo Storm Warning, I Want You.

Songs I'd like to hear live: Tokyo Storm Warning, Battered Old Bird, Crimes of Paris, Next Time Around.

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